Mountville, Hempfield in finals

Mountville’s Nate Beck fires a pitch.

By Dave Byrne
New Era Correspondent

Fans of Hempfield High School baseball should travel to Mount Joy tonight for a preview of the 2008 Black Knights team.

The Mountville Indians and Hempfield Black will play for the Midget-Midget championship of the 58th New Era Tournament tonight at 7 at Kunkle Field.

Mountville, the defending M-M champion, used an 8-run third inning to run its record to 39-0 and thwart the Warwick Phillies 12-2 in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.

Hempfield (35-5) also rode a big inning — a 5-run fifth — breaking open a close contest and mastering Mount Joy Blue 9-2.

Black profited from six errors that led to eight unearned runs while using the lively left arm of Brandon Hinkle to keep Blue (21-14) at bay. Hinkle walked two and struck out nine in four innings, allowing two runs on three hits.

“My fastball was humming in there,” he said. “Some of my curveballs were pretty good and I threw one changeup, by mistake, that was pretty good.”

“Brandon pitched well tonight,” said his coach, Gary Stepanchick. “He threw the ball hard and kept them off balance.”

Hinkle and Brett Houseal, in a 2-inning relief stint, limited Mount Joy to four hits, three by Devon Gorski. Gorski knocked in a first-inning run that gave Blue a 1-0 lead.

But Hinkle, who allowed three of the first four batters he faced to reach base, settled in after adjusting his mechanics.

“I was out of whack,” he said. “My dad told me to step toward my target and slow down. Then I started throwing strikes.”

His mound opponent, Chris Royer, was actually outpitching Hinkle in the early going and took a 2-1 lead into the third inning.

“He threw well, said Blue coach Ron Wagner. “We just didn’t play defense behind him.”

Kunkle’s dirt infield, baked hard by several days of dry weather, turned ordinary groundballs into lethal, flesh-seeking missiles. Several Blue infielders were on the receiving end of those projectiles, leading them to be understandably gunshy.

Three errors helped Hempfield take a 4-2 lead in a 3-run third inning. Black poured it on in the fifth on an RBI single by Andrew Kulp (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBIs), an RBI single by Houseal (1-for-3, 2 RBI) and a 2-run single by Nick Grasso.

“We hit OK, not as well as the other night,” Stepanchick said. “As hard as the infield is, (Mount Joy) got a lot of inbetween hops. We got the ball that bounced the right way tonight.”

The ball bounced the right way for Mountville earlier in the evening.

At first, it appeared Warwick (25-14) was closing in on an upset. Phillies coach Dave Erb gave the start to Mark Stuckey, who had Mountville perplexed with his bending, offspeed offerings.

“I was hoping we could get Mark through the lineup once,” Erb said, “We said, “Let’s try to simplify this and see if we can slay the giant.”

Stuckey retired the first six Indians, four on strikes, and carried a 1-0 lead into the third inning after knocking in Zach Shank, who had tripled, on a first-inning groundout.

“Mark had them off-balance,” said Erb. “They were starting to get rattled.

“He had us!” Indians coach Bob Sauders agreed. “He was “on’ the first two innings. He looked unhittable.”

But soon it was Stuckey who was rattled. He got the first batter of the third inning, Drew Schanz, to ground softly back to him, but he couldn’t find the handle on the ball. A hit batsman and two walks later, he was gone.

“A simple ground ball back to the pitcher,” mused Erb. “Look what happens.”

Chris Markel greeted reliever Skylar Gingrich with an RBI single, then things got weird. Winning pitched Nate Beck lifted a popup behind first base, and Markel and firstbaseman Alex Ney brushed each other going in opposite directions.

The ball dropped inside the firstbase line and bounced off the baked clay and over the fence, eight feet away and out of play for a groundrule double.

Erb asked for an interference call, didn’t get it, then asked for an infield fly ruling on the popup, and didn’t get that either. Two runs scored on the play and soon Gingrich was handing the ball to Bryce Billow. Two errors and two hits later it was 8-1 Mountville.

“We had a breakout inning,” said catcher Brandon Kline(2-for-3, 4 RBI, 2 runs scored). “Everybody was hitting.

The Indians put the game away in the fourth inning on a towering RBI double off the fence by Beck (3-for-4, 4 RBI, 2 runs) and a monster 2-run homer to dead center field by Kline.

Mountville teammates welcome Brandon Kline after his home run.

Mark Stuckey delivers for Warwick.

Hempfield’s Jordan Stepanchick attempts the tag on Josh McClenaghan at second.

But McClenaghan gets in for the stolen base for Mount Joy.

Hempfield’s Brett Hooseal pitches in relief.

Hempfield starter Brandon Hinkle.

Hempfield’s Nick Grasso steals third base as Mount Joy’s Jeff Heisey defends.

Chris Royer delivers for Mount Joy.